Covid-19 vaccines being stocked by the Health Ministry which were set to expire this month have been given a new lease of life after their expiry date was extended by three months. It is not known if these vaccines will be used to administer the booster being given to the elderly and vulnerable persons. The move comes following an announcement by the producers of the jab (Pfizer-Biontech) in which they said that the shelf life could be extended if the vial is stored at the right conditions.

Correspondence seen by Voice of the Workers Weekly confirms that the Central Procurement and Supplies Unit – the entity within the Health Ministry which handles medicine supplies – has at least 12 batches whose original six-month expiry date has been extended to nine months.

The original expiry date of these vials ranged from the end of this month to the end of January 2022.  In a letter to medical practitioners, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists and nurses, the CPSU quoted Pfizer-Biontech saying that “cartons with an expiry date of June 2021 through March 2022 printed on the label may remain in use for 3 months beyond the printed date, as long as approved storage conditions between -90℃ to -60℃ have been maintained”.

Though this portal has no doubts to believe that the Health Ministry took its decision on the basis of the announcement made by the producer of the jab, questions sent by Voice of the Workers Weekly were not answered by the time of writing.

Hence, the number of affected vials whose expiry date has been extended could not be established. Moreover, no reply was received if the Maltese authorities had enquired with Pfizer-Biontech on the reasons why the shelf-life had been extended at this stage rather than at production stage straight away. The Health Ministry also failed to say what assurances had been sought from the producer with regards to possible risks. which the shelf life extension could bring about. The government would neither say whether these 12 batches were being administered to the elderly and vulnerable persons requiring a booster dose.

So far more than 840,000 dozes of the vaccine (comprising other brands not just Pfizer-Biontech) have been administered of which 27,000 booster dozes. However, it is rather disappointing that the Health Ministry is not being forthcoming when asked to provide further information on the vaccination campaign.